How social media is changing the meaning of “Friend” #SMWF

Some great discussion this morning at SMWF in New York, Ted Rubin, social marketing specialist and social media entrepreneur Pete Shankman hosted an engaging discussion about how the meaning of the word ‘friend’ is being warped by peoples’ use of social media.

Clicking on a box does not make us friends, was the gist, and the way the immediacy and ease of connection is ameliorating the term friend had the panellists concerned. “I want 2012 to be the year of taking back the word friend,” said Ted Rubin.

Pete Shankman shared his prediction for the future of the friend-trend. It can’t go on like it is, he said; people he hardly knows are inviting him to birthday parties on the other side of the world, where’s the relevance, where’s the friendship?

In the next 24 months, he continued, the trend will develop to the point where our levels of online friendship are determined not by clicking a button, but by a measure of two peoples’ relevance to each other. The more you interact, both online and in the real world, the more relevant you are.

Whatever platform we use by then, Facebook, Google (Shanklin suggested it could be called FaGoogle), would do well to be able to measure and correlate two peoples’ relevance via online interaction, checkins, emails, messages etc…

Brands need to understand the meaning of relevance, said the panel. Businesses who either deliver irrelevant interaction with their social media connections, or simply strive to generate as many fans or followers as possible are missing the point of the channel, and could be harming their relationship with the very people they’re attempting to engage.

“You’ve got to work your connections,” said Pete Shankman. “A connection is only as strong as the last time you used it.

“It’s easy and quite cheap. What people want to know is that they’re not speaking into the ether. It doesn’t take a lot to interact with people; just the odd comment now and again.”

Follow #SMWF for constant show updates as Social Media World Forum 2011 North America continues today and tomorrow at the Javits Center, NYC.